Filton Airfield no longer viable, BAE tells inquiry
FILTON Airfield will close at the end of the year because it is no longer viable, its owners, BAE Systems have insisted.
But a public inquiry heard yesterday that the airfield made a profit last year.
Town planner Ann Bartaby, for the owners, told the hearing at Kingswood Civic Centre: "The work undertaken by us and others demonstrates there is no viable aviation alternative for the future of the site.
"There has been no other interest from any other organisations to take on the airfield as a going concern."
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After she was asked to comment on the fact that the airfield made a profit last year, she replied that it was as a result of a one-off arrangement with Airbus to airlift staff between sites.
Bert Hindle, chairman of the Save Filton Airfield pressure group said BAE Systems had not done enough to make sure the airfield remained a going concern.
He said if the firm had done so, then it would have placed the airfield on the open market.
Ms Bartaby responded by saying that the future of the airfield was hugely sensitive and that if they had put it on the open market, it would have sent out the wrong message to the worldwide aviation industry.
Mr Hindle also criticised South Gloucestershire Council for passively accepting the closure of the airfield and agreeing to the site being used for housing.
He said if a farmer told the council that he could no longer make ends meet, they would not allow him to suddenly start making a profit by building hundreds of houses on green land – the council would have to examine alternative green uses of the land.
Airfield campaigner David Goodwin said one firm moved away from the airfield because it could not be offered a long-term contract to stay.
He added that St Athan's, a former RAF base near Cardiff, had won a lucrative aircraft maintenance contract and several other airfields such as Luton and Cambridge were expanding after investment.
He said that a new museum for Concorde and the aero collection would provide a revenue stream for BAE Systems and cited the ss Great Britain which earnt £2 million a year in visitors' fees.
South Gloucestershire councillors Bill Bowery and Ian Scott argued in favour of keeping the airfield open which they described as a national asset.
Filton Councillor Doug Daniels made an impassioned speech in support of the airfield.
He said he was appalled that other airfields were having to turn away lucrative maintenance and repair contracts away to countries such as Korea yet BAE Systems wanted to close down Filton. He said the area had the workforce and facilities for growth and future prosperity.
â A deal has been done which will see the air ambulance which covers Bristol staying at Filton.
BAE Systems says it will dedicate an area of Filton Airfield to the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity after the closure of the airfield in December.
The news comes as the charity behind the air ambulance announced that it will be launching a campaign for a new, faster helicopter next month.